What surprised me was that this (rhetorical) question was put to me, not by an elder lemon colleague approaching retirement, but a freshly minted  colleague in his early thirties. Then I saw this Tweet from the Med2.0 conference;

As someone who spends a lot of his time on Twitter, it hurts to think that the majority of my colleagues might think I might be wasting my time.

Engaging in health related activities on social media channels is the most important thing I have done for my medical life since completing my specialist training. It has renewed my fascination for healthcare in a way I haven’t felt since I was a medical student and doing so, has undoubtedly quelled a mid-life ennui with my career. It has transformed the way I learn (where I had all but stopped learning) and introduced me to new an interesting friends.

I readily admit that I have also become somewhat evangelical about my conversion to this new found faith; I have even taken to trying to convert unsuspecting medical buddies of mine to the raptures of social media over a beer or at dinner parties. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if some of them were avoiding me.

I’m not naiive though. I believe that most doctors of my generation are unlikely to embrace social media in the way I have. Unlike the current crop of medical students and graduates (for whom on-line life is a natural extension of themselves) my generation will see the learning curve will be seen as too steep and too time consuming, and the medium untested and fraught with pitfalls.

Those of us who have already seen the light have a responsibility to spread the word and  we’ve got to start somewhere. If the above commentator is right, 14% of doctors  don’t think its a waste of time.

Now if I could only spot them at parties …

Dr. Ronan Kavanagh is a rheumatologist from Galway, Ireland.  Follow him on twitter @RonanTKavanagh and at his personal blog where this post first appeared.

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7 Responses for “Are You Still Wasting Your Time on Twitter?”

  1. Doug says:

    Social Media – a waste of time?!?! Not if you want your website to have any type of presence. Twitter has 250,000,000 monthly users, and it is the second biggest social media site next to Facebook. So I say way to stay up with the times Dr Kavanagh!

  2. southern doc says:

    “Now if I could only spot them at parties”

    Come on, that’s easy. They’re sitting in the corner by themselves, hunched over their phones, ignoring what’s going on around them.

  3. Good post Dr. Kavanagh! Just as with any consumer-facing business (yes, medicine is a business), those who will be most successful understand that they must be where their customers are. Of all professions, medicine seems to be among the most resistant to change. But, those who are willing to overcome institutional inertia and get with the times will find lots of patients on the other side welcoming them with open arms. Take it from me. I am one of those patients :)

  4. Maithri says:

    @southern doc: Your description is spot-on…for people of all generations.

  5. Dr. Kavanagh says Twitter is “the most important thing I have done for my medical life since completing my medical training;” yet he does not give even one example!

    Clearly, he is so used to Twitter that when he writes over 140 characters he doesn’t notice that he omitted actually providing any supporting material for his argument. I don’t doubt its truth. I lament the fact that a smart, well-trained physician writing a blog doesn’t even notice when bad Internet habits encourage superficiality.

    And, yes, I Tweet. And, yes, I find it useful as both Tweet and Tweep. But, no, I am not as enraptured as Dr. Kavanagh and, all kidding aside, would be curious for him to lay out an argument at greater length.

    • Thanks Michael. I take your point about the piece. It originally appeared on my own blog where it might have been seen in context.

      As you’re interested, social media has changed the way in which I learn from a point where I had become so overwhelmed by unfiltered information (at conferences, in journals etc) that I had all but disengaged from the learning process.

      The network of specialists I communicate with online now act as the filter I need – to collate and distill relevant and important clinical information. We share links to relevant articles, share clinical nuggets of information and support one another online.

      Twitter (in particular) has opened my eyes to whats going on at the interfaces of medicine with other industries and areas of science (eg health technology, genetics, design, the arts). Those of us working in specialty clinical practice get channeled into narrow siloes of special interest and rarely see outside our own specialties . Its nice to get out and have a look around.

      At a stage of my life when a certain humdrum routine sets in (yes, mid life is here) it is really invigorating to have my enthusiasm for medicine and learning reignited.

      Please have a look at my blog on http://www.ronankavanagh.ie – I’m not as flippant as I might seem…

  6. Dan Higson says:

    Professionals across the board are using Twitter and other Social Media. My son runs my twitter and website for my law practice and I have been able to cancel all of my other advertising. As a doctor, at the very least you are able to see the kind of health information that is being passed around. I am constantly shocked at the misinformation being shared online!

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